Navy marks 4,000th ballistic-missile submarine patrol

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The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay following routine operations. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson)

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay following routine operations. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson)

Norfolk, Va. – The Navy marked the 4,000th ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) patrol on Friday with dual ceremonies at the subs’ bases in Bangor, Washington and Kings Bay, Georgia.

The first fleet ballistic-missile submarine USS George Washington was commissioned Dec. 30, 1959, and completed the inaugural deterrent patrol in January 1961. Since then, 59 SSBNs have been commissioned in the last 50-plus years.

“The ballistic missile Submarine Force and the capability it offers is as important and relevant in today’s uncertain world as it was when the first deterrent patrols were conducted more than five decades ago,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command. “Commemorating the 4,000th patrol allows us to honor not only the submariners who have achieved this milestone, but also to pay homage to the men and women of our strategic forces who are on watch every day providing our nation with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent against those who might think to do us harm.”

Along with strategic bombers and the intercontinental ballistic missiles, the SSBNs make up the third element of the United States’ triad of nuclear deterrence. Their sea-based missile launch capability makes them the most survivable asset in the event of a nuclear attack.

The current Ohio-class SSBNs carry the majority of deployed U.S. nuclear warheads allowing them to stabilize deterrent relationships and render surprise attacks inconceivable.

“Today, we celebrate a very special milestone in the undersea warfare community as we commemorate the 4,000th strategic deterrent patrol conducted by our fleet ballistic missile submarines,” said Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander, Submarine Forces. “Strategic deterrence has been the sole mission of the fleet ballistic missile submarine since its inception. As the sea-based leg of U.S. strategic deterrent forces, the current 14 Trident SSBNs carry more than 50 percent of the total U.S. strategic warheads. Today’s concept of strategic deterrence seeks to deter attacks on the U.S. or its allies, dissuade adversaries from actions counter to stability, and peace, and to assure allies of the United States’ commitment to their security.”

The current fleet of Ohio-class SSBNs has already had their life-spans extended and must be replaced by new class of SSBNs.

“The Sailors have done their part to ensure peace and the ships have done their part too as they now start to serve well beyond their original design service life,” said Connor. “Now the country must do the same to continue to ensure the peace for our children and our children’s children. We must build Ohio’s replacement. There is no more important or more effective use of our national defense spending than to ensure that we build the 12 ships that will enable exceptional Sailors like you to guarantee the peace for future generations.”

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, echoed Connor’s concerns about the Ohio replacements.

“We as a nation are also demonstrating credibility through commitment to our deterrence strategy, the sustainment of the Ohio class and the procurement of the Ohio replacement. We must procure and maintain a force of Ohio replacement SSBNs, in order to keep them properly postured and positioned to be survivable and to ensure adequate target coverage.”

While the material and mission readiness of the strategic deterrent fleet is primary focus areas, these elements would be mute without the personnel readiness of our Sailors. The professional and personal development needs of our Sailors and their families are critical aspects in recruiting and retaining our best and brightest to ensure mission accomplishment in the Submarine Force.

“The submarine is perhaps the most technological marvel ever! As we continue to build and develop new submarines they are becoming even more advanced – quieter, stealthier, going deeper, and armed with highly superior weapons systems,” said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director, Strategic Systems Programs. “However, this is all for naught if not for the men and now women of the silent service. Equally – if not more important than the payload or the platform is the Sailor. Our Sailors have and will continue to protect and provide credible deterrence to those who would otherwise wish us harm.”

In a letter sent to the Submarine Force, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stated:

“It is my great honor to congratulate Commander, Submarine Forces and all the Sailors, civilians, and veterans of the Submarine Force who have dedicated themselves to achieving this significant milestone – our nation’s 4,000th Strategic Deterrent Patrol. This milestone demonstrates not only the far-reaching importance of strategic deterrence to the security of the United States and its allies, but also the significant role the U.S. Navy plays in maintaining this posture.

“History shows us that it is difficult to predict the future of conflict. But it also shows us that we must always be prepared for the threat of conflict. So, I thank you, for protecting peace, promoting global security, and for all you do to ensure the safety of our Nation.”

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